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Rug Sizes: How to Figure Out the Best Area Rug for Your Space

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Your area rug has seen better days. Between the mysterious black smudge in the corner, general wear and tear over the years, and the random detritus that seem to have fused themselves into your rug’s fibers, you know it’s time for an upgrade. Or perhaps you’ve been gliding along on your wooden floors in slippers for the past decade, always solemnly promising this will be the year you buy that long-postponed living room carpet. And yet, when it comes to selecting rug sizes, the stress of figuring out the right shape and material are enough to make you want to give up your carpet quest before you start.

This year, don’t be that person. “Area rugs play a pivotal role in grounding a space. They provide a great way to define an area, especially when it comes to open layouts. Beyond their practical uses, they also provide a layer of comfort and warmth to a room,” says Isfira Jensen, principal designer and CEO of Nufacet Interiors in New York City, who notes that their aesthetics are also used to complement the surrounding decor with varying textures, patterns, and colors.

Below, Jensen and other interior designers chime in with their tried-and-true rules for selecting the perfect rug sizes for your space, mistakes to avoid when designing around an area rug, and some of our favorite area rugs you can buy online.

How to figure out the right area rug sizes for your space

David Thompson, principal and founder, Assembledge+ in Los Angeles, reiterated that rugs can anchor a space and unite all the furniture pieces together seamlessly. “But to craft this kind of composition, visual relief is key,” he says. “Embracing some simple guidelines can help you achieve the balanced warmth you’re looking for in your space.”

“Having the correct size of an area rug is crucial,” echoed Samantha Gallacher, founder and CEO of custom rug company Art + Loom in Miami, noting that area rugs allow a homeowner or designer an opportunity to show a real sense of style, personality, and self-expression, creating a one-of-a-kind space. Here are three measurement rules Thompson, Gallacher, and Jensen say you should always follow.

1. Use furniture placement as a metric to determine the right size rug.

Jensen stressed the importance of ensuring your rug is proportional to the whole room as well as the furnishings within it. Accordingly, she advised selecting a rug size which either allows the furniture to sit on the rug in its entirety, or at least to have the front legs of the main elements like sofas and chairs on the rug. “This is what anchors the furniture in the space,” she says. Thompson added that rugs should extend at least eight inches beyond each side of large furniture pieces, “alleviating any sense of constriction or tension.”

For larger rugs, Jensen recommends leaving 18 to 24 inches of floor space around the rug’s edges to frame the rug to avoid making the room feel cramped. As for Thompson, he expands that “breathing space” range a bit, specifying clients leave at least 12 inches between a rug’s edge and nearby walls to “preserve the rug’s distinct presence, while avoiding the ‘wall-to-wall’ effect.”

Position statement side chairs with front legs resting on the rug and back legs on the floor behind, creating a more dynamic arrangement.

2. Don’t pick a rug that is too small.

“The biggest mistake I see is the selection of area rugs that are too small. This takes away from a sense of proportion in a room, making the furniture feel oversized,” commented Jensen, elaborating that this naturally leads to visual disharmony along with a missed opportunity to anchor a zone in a room. Gallacher echoed this sentiment about too-small rugs: “When an area rug is too small, it can divide a space and make it feel smaller,” she says. “When sized appropriately, a large rug that houses all the furniture in the room grounds the space, makes it feel larger, and creates warmth.”

3. When in doubt, keep these measurement rules of thumb in your back pocket for rug sizes.

Gallacher outlines these three simple rules when selecting a rug size for a living room, dining room, and bedroom.

  • Dining room: For placing a rug underneath a dining table or a foyer table, have it extend three feet from the edge of the table on all four sides.

  • Living room: If living room furniture is floating (i.e., not against a wall) the rug you select should come out at least eight inches from the back of the furniture. If there is a sofa against the wall, the rug should go at least one foot underneath the sofa but doesn’t need to extend out the back.

  • Bedroom: For the bedroom, choose a rug in which its width is at least as long as the ends of the nightstands, and should extend far enough out in front of the bed, ideally a minimum of three feet.

If after considering these three guidelines you’re still a bit wary of what rug size would work best in your space, Thompson suggests experimenting with painter’s tape or string to mock up the scale and placement to visualize its interplay with other furnishings.

More ins and outs to finding the perfect rug size for your space

Along with size considerations, other factors matter when it comes to finding a rug that, well, floors you.

Make sure your rug complements your room’s overall aesthetic

This sage piece of carpet wisdom is courtesy of Jensen who says doing so can “make or break” the design of a given room. “The color and pattern must relate to the existing decor and add to what you’re looking to accomplish in the space,” she says. “When done right, the right rug harmonizes with the existing colors or can give a nice contrast, depending on the desired outcome for the space.”

For relatively neutral decor, Jensen suggests including rugs with color and pattern so they can add vibrancy and visual interest in the room. “Conversely, a room already rich in color and pattern benefits from a solid-colored rug, so the room doesn’t feel overwhelming,” Jensen offered. Similarly, Thompson noted that a boldly colored rug with large or intricate patterning can overwhelm smaller spaces, creating an interior that competes for your attention while sticking with neutral tones “allows for playful exploration of dynamic textures and meandering patterns.”

Seek out a rug made with quality materials

As Thompson put it, the essence of a quality rug lies in its materials, ticking off examples of natural fibers such as jute, wool, hemp, silk and cotton, which tend to emit fewer harmful gases or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) compared to synthetics. These rugs come in a “variety of timeless colors and textures,” to match virtually any aesthetic, per Thompson. “Seek out textures or patterns with movement that help guide focus toward key focal points in the room without overwhelming the eye,” he added.

Zoom in on texture and pile

FYI: Pile is a term used to describe the density of the fibers in a given rug; flat refers to short pile and shaggy refers to long pile (pile height measures this length from the rug’s peak surface height to its backing). As Gallacher emphasizes, both texture and also pile heights play a big role in selecting the right rug for a room. “Pile height can create a lot of interest in the rug, as long as it is not movable furniture like dining chairs. For a dining room where the chairs will be moving in and out, it’s best to use one pile height,” says Gallacher, pointing out that for a living room where the furniture is more than likely stationary, you can play with varying higher and lower pile heights.

For high-traffic areas, Thompson says to opt for a shorter, denser pile rug, which will last longer and usually requires less maintenance. “Longer piles exude luxury with their tactile quality, but are prone to flattening and indentations under furniture weight,” he adds. Expanding on that, Gallacher singled out silk as a material that’s best to avoid as the main material or one of the more prominent elements in a rug for a high-traffic room, “since that will be harder to maintain.” Instead, look for silk elements as an accent in the rug, she says.

Shop our favorite area rugs

Velma tufted loop rug

$350.00, Ernesta

We’re swooning for custom rug innovator, Ernesta, which is all about creating designer-quality, custom-sized rugs at a more attainable price. The brand has a curated assortment of high-quality rugs in various styles, colors, pile heights, and materials, but we love this pet-friendly tufted loop rug that’s easy to clean and designed to last for the long haul. Plus, it’s pretty darn soft to boot. Order a detached rug pad for an additional $50.

Ines Tufted Wool Rug

$150.00, Quince

Navy is the new neutral. This wool rug showcases a traditional medallion motif that is printed on a tufted base in a black and natural palette. Made by artisans in India, the comfy and durable yarn is 100% wool and the rug is made with a recycled cotton backing. Note: Shedding of loose fibers is normal when you first buy a new rug, but with regular vacuuming and a window of around three to six months, this will subside.

Terna Handcrafted Bedroom Rug

$995.00, Saatva

For area rugs particularly well suited for the bedroom, our vote is Saatva’s recently launched rug collection made from recycled yarns and plastics removed from the ocean, produced by Jaipur Living. The geometric pattern on the Terna handcrafted rug, a hybrid of cotton and wool, is subtle and superb. Additionally, we appreciate that it’s super plush on your feet. Choose from Ivory, Sand, or Graphite and in 8x10', 9x12', or 10x14'.

Jolanda

$2126.00, Stark

This hand-knotted rug is equal parts playful and elegant. Plus, “the neutral tones in this rug allow for versatility in design,” notes Jensen, adding that it can be used in a wide range of interior styles and color schemes without clashing with the surrounding decor. “Not only is it a practical choice for your current space, but a great option as your décor updates over time,” she says.

Copeland Quinn

$675.00, Ernesta

Another winner from the custom rug company Ernesta, this cozy wool flatweave rug comes in Indigo, Stone (a sand color), and Fog (off-white). We appreciate that this zen rug makes a clean, minimalist statement without being too bland. Add an attached rug pad that’s sewn on the back of the rug for $100.

Mojave

$1900.00, Armadillo

Thompson calls this brand “simple, elegant, and timeless,” and we agree. He’s also a fan of the fact that the rug company suits diverse budgets. Though this rug is on the pricier side, the Indo-Nepali hand-knotted Tibetan weave and hand spun pile makes a lasting impression. Choose from Laurel, Cashew, or Natural colorways for this jute rug.

French Aubusson Rug

$2200.00, Mehraban

Thompson singles out this luxury rug company for its “amazing selection for both modern and traditional rugs.” We particularly adore this 7'10" x 10' x 1" flat weave wool rug for its ornate and regal pattern. “All the rugs carry phenomenal craftsmanship, and the staff is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable,” adds Thompson.

Jessica Poundstone Rugs

$190.00, Work in Progress

Looking to zhuzh up a dull color palette? Work in progress partnered with Los Angeles–based artist Jessia Poundstone to create five linear rug patterns, all inspired by natural foods. Peach, Wild Cherry, Cherry, Blueberry, and Avocado are currently on offer, with multicolored hues to match each colorway’s fruity theme. Each rug is hand-woven in India by a third-generation family-owned business using mid-weight, flat-weave cotton that has been hand-dyed using azo-free dyes.

Jasper Recycled Kilim Rug

$176.00, Quince

This geometric design is woven on a rug made from 100% recycled polyester that is shed-resistant. Featuring a navy, pink, and natural color scheme, the chic piece is hand-made by artisans in India, so expect each rug to be slightly different and uniquely yours.

Adamas Handcrafted Bedroom Rug

$1595.00, Saatva

Flatweave 100% wool area rug? Check. Ideal for regular foot traffic? You betcha. A gorgeous diamond trellis pattern? But of course, with three colorways to choose from (Graphite, Slate, and Sand). Available in 8x10', 9x12', and 10x14', this ethically made rug works delightfully on its own or even atop another carpet. Or, pair it with Saatva’s natural open-weave rug pad (this add-on starts at $145) to reduce slipping and bunching.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest


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